You may not know Bobby Clark by name yet you know his most famous character if grew up enjoying science fiction in the ’60s and ’70s. He was the man in the suit battling James T. Kirk as one of STAR TREK’s most iconic aliens, the Gorn.
You’d probably never recognize Tom Woodruff Jr. if you saw him on the street, yet twice he’s acted opposite Sigourney Weaver, extending one of the biggest horror film franchises as the acid-dripping monster in ALIEN³ and ALIEN RESURRECTION.
The same goes for Doug Jones who’s better known as Abe Sapien and Brian Steele as Sammael and Wink as seen in HELLBOY and HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY; or monster man treasure Bob Burns as lovable gorilla Tracy in the 1970s Saturday morning series THE GHOST BUSTERS; or perhaps the most anonymous creature performer in all monster movie history, Haruo Nakajima, who suited up to play Toho Studios’ GODZILLA nearly a dozen times over two decades.
Such is the fate of these actors and many others who make their living as MEN IN SUITS, but Frank H. Woodward‘s fascinating documentary of that very name attempts to correct this oversight by interviewing and celebrating the artistic contributions made by these actors who literally pour their blood, sweat and tears into bringing many of our favorite film and TV characters to life.
Modern day monster fans may not realize it, but actors in suits span nearly the entire history of cinema, establishing movie and pop culture icons which still resonate decades later. From Brigitte Helm’s immortal sci-fi robot Hel in Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS to the rather creepy flying monkey hordes in THE WIZARD OF OZ, Nakajima’s inimitable daikaiju star of GODZILLA, the gillman a.k.a. THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, Robby the Robot from FORBIDDEN PLANET, Chewbacca, C3PO and the motley denizens of Mos Eisley in STAR WARS, up to the high-tech suited beasts as seen in ALIEN, PREDATOR, PAN’S LABYRINTH, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and beyond. Creatures have been an integral part of features since the start and yet the more convincing their illusion, the less audiences learn about the actors inside those suits whose talents make these characters so memorable.
Woodward’s 94-minute documentary introduces audiences to many of these unsung, suited heroes of monster culture both past and present, revealing a lineage of entertainment history that today’s incognito actors proudly carry on today. Not only do these performers often train like pro athletes to gain physical endurance to wear character suits often topping 100 pounds, they study for and obtain the acting chops in order to share the screen with cinema’s top recognizable stars. These entertaining interviews are backed up with hundreds of film clips featuring classic and current suited characters and info on the careers of the actors who played them. You’ll learn how a star of cowboy serial shorts became a prolific gorilla in movies, and why The Creature From the Black Lagoon swims with his trademark arm sidestroke among other suit-actor secrets.
Additional interviewees who tell the contemporary side of suited actors include Misty Rosas (Amy the gorilla in CONGO), Michelan Sisti (Michaelangelo in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES), John Alexander (GORILLAS IN THE MIST, MEN IN BLACK), Camden Toy (Ubervamp in BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), Douglas Tait (STAR TREK, THOR) and Van Snowden, the late puppeteer/actor for Sid and Marty Krofft series H.R. PUFNSTUF.
While movie monster fans and creature devotees will eagerly devour behind-the-scenes stories and insights from these actors, even general film and TV fans will find MEN IN SUITS both enjoyable and informative, stoking their own appreciation for just how entertaining these actors are in-character and unsuited as themselves. An art form unto itself which nearly disappeared with the proliferation of CG-created characters has fought back and expanded its cinematic potential thanks to these actors and supportive filmmakers like Guillermo Del Toro and Barry Sonnenfeld, who appreciate their characters interacting live on the shooting stage with non-suited actors.
If you’ve ever been entranced or terrified by film characters containing living, breathing, emoting actors, then you shouldn’t miss seeing MEN IN SUITS to learn more about the men and women who suit up every day to make your moviegoing experience that much more special and memorable. MEN IN SUITS on DVD with bonus interviews is now available for order via Amazon.com. Read more about this documentary — as well as Woodward’s other excellent film LOVECRAFT: FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN — at the official Wyrd website. Sample MEN IN SUITS by watching the trailer below.